IT buyers and other industry observers like to know about a company’s or product’s financial heft, for at least two reasons:
- To get a sense of how much investment there has been in its development.
- To judge how much “skin” the vendor has in the game, as a clue to how committed the vendor (and, if relevant, investors) are to future development.
People further like to know how much success a product has had — both for social proof and also as a clue to the product’s financial status.
Indeed, such social proof is a key aspect of one version of the layered messaging model.
And if you don’t disclose information in line with people’s minimum expectations, they:
- Suspect you of hiding something,
- Tend to assume the worst about you, and
- Generally get annoyed with the unnecessary hassle you put them through when they have to get the information the hard way.
Hence, for example, my recent tweak of McObject, for not being willing to quickly run through basics such as:
- Age of company.
- Level of outside investment.
- Number of employees (the one they definitely stonewalled me on).
Why do people insist on knowing the number of employees, especially developers? Well, it’s a reasonable proxy for level of development effort (give or take outsourcing and the like). What’s more, it can’t really be kept secret, except at companies so weak that they aren’t interviewing anybody for new staff positions. Hence it’s something routinely disclosed, even at companies that wouldn’t dream of being forthright about actual revenues and products. And so companies that don’t disclose headcount become suspiciously-regarded outliers.
The other metric that the community pretty much forces out of vendors is customer count. DATAllegro managed to fool people into thinking they had more customers than they did, and parlayed that all the way into an expensive Microsoft takeover (that hasn’t exactly worked out well for the buyer). But as a general rule, vendors are pretty forthright about customer success if pushed, with my recent post on columnar analytic DBMS customer metrics being an illustrative example.